Tackling the stigma around alcohol and drug use

Around one in 20 Australians struggle with a substance use problem or addiction each year, but only one in four seek help.

This is the focus of a new four-part documentary series titled Addicted Australia, produced by Rethink Addiction and SBS Australia, which provides a unique insight into addiction, stigma and treatment.

It follows ten clients, their clinicians, peer support workers, families and friends as they take part in a six-month treatment program and aims to debunk many of the prevailing misconceptions that further the damaging stigma faced by those living with dependency issues.

In Western Australia the use of alcohol and other drugs continues to have an impact on the physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing of individuals, families and communities.

According to the National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019, one in four Western Australians consumed five or more drinks in one session (at least monthly) and one in six Western Australians had used an illicit drug in the past 12 months.

WA Primary Health Alliance Health Policy Manager Melanie Chatfield said the Addicted Australia series highlighted the continue need to change community perceptions about the reality of addiction

“Addiction is one of the most frequently misunderstood health conditions and the shame and stigma experienced by people affected continues to be a significant barrier to them accessing treatment.”

“It’s crucial that negative attitudes and stereotypes about alcohol and other drug use and addiction change so that individuals don’t delay getting help when they need it.”

Tackling stigma and supporting general practitioners, nurses, and other allied health professionals to feel confident in talking to their patients about substance use is a priority for WA Primary Health Alliance’s Treating Alcohol and Drugs in Primary Care Program.

“We are committed to building the capability of the primary care workforce to recognise and respond to alcohol and other drug issues in a compassionate, coordinated, and person-centred way,” she said.

“We know it can be difficult to have a conversation about using alcohol or drugs but talking with your GP or another health professional is a great first step in getting acces to confidential advice, treatment and referral if you need it.”

Resources for consumers, carers and health professionals

The Addicted Australia series can be viewed online here.

HealthPathways WA and Practice Assist contain many useful clinical resources related to the treatment of alcohol and other drugs in the primary care setting.

Anyone concerned about their own or someone else’s alcohol or other drug use can talk to their GP, telephone the Alcohol and Drug Support Service on (08) 9442 5000 or Country callers: 1800 198 024 or visit My Community Directory to find a local services.